b/w Come On Back
(Written by Howard Hausey)
It’s a surprise to still be encountering Mel-o-dy Records releases in 1965, and even more of a surprise that Motown’s unloved, soon-to-be-shuttered country label was still unearthing new acts even at this late stage.
Label mainstay Howard Hausey, who recorded several singles for Mel-o-dy under the pseudonym “Howard Crockett”, is again called upon to write a song for one of his labelmates, and again he proves to be a better writer than a singer. This time, his beneficiary is Texan singer Dwight Mullinax, who enjoyed a long and sporadically fruitful career away from Motown as “Dee Mullins”, recording for umpteen different country labels before and after this, his one and only Motown single, finally coming to prominence in the late Sixties with the snappily-titled answer song “The Continuing Story of the Harper Valley P.T.A.”
On the evidence of this one single, Mullins seems to be cut from slightly different cloth to the rest of Motown’s country signings; this is quite a catchy, pop-inflected song, but Mullins brings to it elements of honky-tonk and bluegrass. Neither of which are words I was expecting to be using on a Motown blog, I’ll be honest.
Hausey knew his way around a tune, that much we’ve already discovered, and this has a strong and catchy melody. Plus, Mullins has a decent voice (very similar to labelmate Dorsey Burnette, in fact, just a bit higher pitched), and he’s likeable with it; his little semi-guffaws and raised eyebrows, combined with his Texan burr, give this lots of personality. And the guitar work here is plenty good.
But as a lyricist, poor old Howard is all at sea; beyond the clever title, which I like (and which raised a genuine smile from your correspondent the first time I saw it), the main theme – finance trumps romance – isn’t really developed. Rather than make any kind of point, the song has Mullins describe a few different situations where money has ruined a relationship, or where money is the only reason a couple is together, or where money is causing even darker problems, as in the song’s meanest moment:
Take that ol’ millionaire with one foot in the grave
And the other on a banana peel
But there’s a pretty girl gonna give him a shove
Before he has time to change his will!
(Yes, Mullins’ accent makes a rhyme of “peel” and “will”).
There’s no kind of comeuppance for any of them, and no broader observation made (it doesn’t even have an ending, it just sort of stops after Mullins has told a few of these stories). I’m as fond of cynical humour as the next guy, but this isn’t really humour as such, it’s just Mullins asking us to consider a long list of unpleasant people.
Still, even if it’s mean-spirited, it is a good tune, and I find Mullins sneakily likeable as a vocalist. If it’s not that great a record, it’s still probably among the better Mel-o-dy country releases, and I’d have been interested to hear more from his partnership with Hausey. Instead, the label had a less rosy outlook than that ol’ millionaire in the lyrics: Motown would be shutting it down barely three months later.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
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“Too Many Fish In The Sea”
“Come On Back (And Be My Love Again)”
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